Memorialization of Maironis with Respect to Literary Canonization (1932–1940)
Keywords: Jonas Mačiulis-Maironis, literary canon, memorialization
AbstractThe paper focuses on the performative and material memorialization (anniversaries, funeral, obituaries in the press, the gravestone, and the memorial museum) ofMaironis (Jonas Mačiulis, 1862–1932) in the 1930s, which contributed to the consolidation of the poet’s position in the national literary canon. It also describes what prevalent meanings of his literary works were being formed by different practices of memorialization. When Maironis died in 1932, the press was full of obituaries, detailed commentaries, and interpretations of his funeral. We also have a script of his 70th birthday celebration, which, together with the mentioned acts of memorialization, shows that Maironis occupied the central spot in the national literary canon in the early 1930s. The very fact of his death granted an additional motive towards a faster canonization of the poet and served as a base to form Maironis’s patriotic cult. In the obituaries, the meaning of Maironis’s poetry was predominantly judged from the point of view of its social and historical impact and Maironis was extolled as a prophet of the national revival who had awakened the Lithuanians to the fight for their language, culture, and statehood. During the interwar period, the era of the national revival had become an essential place of collective memory in general, thus the poetry of Maironis, who had already been treated as the national poet of the revival, was recognized not only as a witness of that epoch, but also as the one that could fulfill the vitally important function of mobilization of the community and of the formation of national and civil identity. When Maironis was still alive, he was commemorated in various toponyms of Kaunas and other regions of Lithuania. After his death, the importance of his memorialization in different ways became obvious. Shortly after his funeral, the publication of memoirs about his life, stories about the processes of writing poetry, and his letters was initiated. In the late 1930s, a mausoleum of Maironis was built near Kaunas Cathedral Basilica, a bust of Maironis was erected in the square of the Military Museum of Vytautas the Great, and Maironis Memorial Museum was founded. There were no other Lithuanian writers in the period of the Republic of Lithuania (1918–1940) who received so much attention from the state and so much financial support as was assigned to the memorialization of Maironis.